The development of speech and language in humans was influenced not by the gene that used to be the main evolutionary engine for acquiring these skills. This conclusion was made by scientists, comparing the genetic data of modern people and Neanderthals. The results of the study are published in the journal Cell.
It is believed that the gene FOXP2, associated with the development of speech, explains the evolutionary advantage of modern man in front of the Neanderthals. The study, published in 2002 in the journal Nature, claimed that it was the work of FOXP2 and the development of language skills that caused the spread of the human race across Africa 100,000 years ago. The authors of the new study decided to test these results on a larger database of genetic data.
16 years ago, scientists did not have access to the methods of genetic analysis that modern researchers have. Therefore, they were able to analyze only a small database of genetic data (obtained from only 20 people, mostly of European origin). Scientists believe that the old results need to be clarified, with special attention given to the genome of immigrants from Africa.
The authors used mostly open databases on the genome of ancient and modern people (for example, the 1000 Genomes Project Consortium, available to all). The scientists applied several statistical methods, but none of them confirmed the results of the work of 2002. It turned out that FOXP2 was also among the predecessors of modern man and was not at all our unique feature.
The authors hope that the method they used in their work will become a kind of template for other evolutionary studies. According to them, many studies were conducted on an insufficiently large genetic base, mainly on data from people of the Caucasoid race. Therefore, some of the facts known today about the evolution of man may simply be false.